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Orange County virus numbers remain low; Fauquier logs most fatalities in Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District

Orange County virus numbers remain low; Fauquier logs most fatalities in Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District

As the COVID-19 pandemic heads into its eighth month, virus numbers in Orange County remain relatively low and stable. On Tuesday morning, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported a total of 327 cases, 21 hospitalizations and four deaths in the county.

In contrast, Fauquier County has seen 939 cases, 47 hospitalizations and 25 deaths—the highest number of fatalities in the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District. The deaths in Fauquier have occurred mainly due to outbreaks at Brookside Rehab & Nursing Center in Warrenton.

Elsewhere in the five-county health district, the VDH website shows 1,205 cases, 94 hospitalizations and 17 deaths in Culpeper County, and in Madison, 108 cases, six hospitalizations and three deaths. In Rappahannock, there have been 63 cases, five hospitalizations and two deaths.

Dr. Wade Kartchner, health director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, said, “We continue to see numbers fairly low in the district overall. The outbreaks we have seen in the past weeks have subsided, and our district doesn’t have the large college and university settings that are causing so much transmission in other communities.”

Since the school year began, the Orange County Public Schools have announced two positive cases at Orange County High School, first a staff member and, on Monday, a student. In both instances, the school division has informed the school community.

In response to the student testing positive, the notice posted on the division’s website states, in part: “We understand this may cause some uneasiness, [but] the overall risk of exposure to the majority of students and staff in our school is low. Students or staff members who are considered close contacts have been notified separately, as they may be at a higher risk. We have been in close contact with the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District to identify the steps that need to be taken to keep our students, staff and families safe and healthy.”

The statement also noted that OCHS would remain open to students taking classes in-person.

More than 3,100 virus deaths in Virginia

On Tuesday morning, the VDH reported a total of 147,516 cases (including 7,555 probable), 10,978 hospitalizations (84 probable) and 3,187 deaths (211 probable) across the commonwealth.

In recent days, the VDH’s COVID-19 webpage has included a note stating, “VDH is working diligently to identify COVID-19 related deaths through vital record death certificate information. A backlog of death data is expected to be added from September 15 through September 25.”

Asked to clarify that statement, health department officials responded, “While deaths were still being reported to VDH from local health districts through public health investigations, death reports from VDH’s central office vital records system were not reaching the epidemiological team.

“This backlog was caused by a system error that has since been addressed and will be regularly reviewed going forward. The backlog of deaths [is] estimated to have occurred from mid-August through September.”

It turns out that recording a death from the virus is not just a matter of checking a box on a computer screen.

VDH officials explained the process this way: “Death data are gathered through public health investigations of COVID-19 cases and entered in the Virginia Electronic Disease Surveillance System (VEDSS) each day. Death data from VEDSS are matched with death certificate data (Vital Records) for additional information.

“All COVID-19 deaths and outcome data are reported to CDC through VEDSS, so any data from Vital Records is manually supplemented into VEDSS. The deaths may be delayed in appearing on the VDH COVID-19 dashboard while we wait for the death certificates to be prepared and for the data to be entered into VEDSS.”

National death toll tops 204,000

Tuesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 204,328 deaths from the virus. There were 295 new deaths since Monday. Across the nation, there are nearly 7.1 million positive cases of the highly contagious new coronavirus and more than 310,000 new cases in the last seven days.

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Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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